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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

A Changing Turkey: The Challenge to Europe and the United States
Heinz Kramer

Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2000
304pp. Index. Pb.: $18.95; ISBN 0-8157-5023-4.

A Changing Turkey provides an excellent review and fascinating analysis of the centrifugal religious, ethnic and cultural, political and strategic forces, and the dilemmas of Westernisation, which have dogged Turkey for much of the recent past. Part One examines how the outdated Kemalist model has produced great tensions between tradition and the modernity it purported to create, leading to the forceful expression of alternative identities (as with the Kurds, for example), and the revival of political Islam. Part Two discusses foreign and security policy since the end of the Cold War, and Turkey's rather unsubtle attempts to become involved in Central Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans, and its tough policies towards Greece and Cyprus. It then turns to a discussion of Turkey's view of Europe and the West before finally presenting the author's position on how European and American policy toward Turkey should proceed.

While I found this study to be informative and accurate from a factual point of view, I must disagree with some of the conclusions which were drawn, which I think, rather than stabilising Turkey would exacerbate its ethnic and religious divisions and allow the military to continue their bellicose policies around its borders, with Greece, Cyprus, and Syria, among others, and with the Kurds. The author has very precisely pin-pointed the plethora of tensions within Turkey produced in part by a lack of pluralism and the extensive role of the military in political decision-making through the lens of the authoritarian Kemalist model which sought to modernise Turkey. It is then proposed that the solution to Turkey's ills would be found in Turkey becoming more 'Western' with the aid of the EU and the US. The problem with this is that Kemalism and its Western oriented policies themselves have produced these tensions with the more traditional aspects of Turkish society, and with 'other' identity groups. Anchoring Turkey firmly within the West means promoting actors mainly within the political and military elites- and as can be seen during the Cold War and since, this has produced an aggressive Turkish foreign policy which has had unfortunate implications for many of Turkey's neighbours, as well as groups within Turkey which have resisted assimilation. To argue that Turkish foreign policy is a product of the tensions of the region is only part of the story. Thus, for example, US backing of Turkey has generally been for US objectives rather than to produce a more democratic and humanitarian system within Turkey. Here the EU may well prove to be crucial, but given the buttressing that the US has provided for Turkey for so long and with generally little regard for the nature of Turkish politics, Turkey now seems to be attempting to apply similarly bellicose tactics to the EU through its attempts to bypass much of what was clearly stated in the Helsinki Conclusions of late 1999. Much more attention needs to be paid to Turkey's humanitarian record, its institutions of polyarchy, and development, in the context of the unwieldy role of its artificially bloated military infrastructure, unfortunately buttressed because of western strategic goals.

Dr. Oliver Richmond, Department of International

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